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Opinion: It should be Facebook, not ‘Censorbook’

Congressional Testimony

Posted online

On April 10-11, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, testified before Congress in widely watched hearings. The first day, he faced questions from a joint Senate committee hearing and, the next day, Zuckerberg testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I was one of the Congressmen to ask questions of Zuckerberg.

My focus during this hearing was on the apparent bias against conservative news outlets on Facebook. According to reports in 2016, employees at Facebook would routinely censor or purposefully downplay the existence of conservative news stories. One of Facebook’s features, the “trending” news section, would be artificially influenced by those whose job it was to curate the news stories. As a result, popular stories about the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mitt Romney or then President-elect Donald Trump, would not be featured for Facebook users to see.

According to a Pew Research study, 45 percent of U.S. adults use Facebook as their main source of news. Facebook alone has the largest share of social media news consumers, with many of those users relying on it as their sole source of news. In January, Facebook introduced a new algorithm that manipulated what news stories its users see. The results have been devastating. Since then, conservative news outlets have been directly hit. Whether this was Facebook’s intention or not, this type of behavior will have lasting effects if it doesn’t change.

There are many examples of Facebook purposefully removing conservative content, exposing the inherent biases of the company. One in particular is a video series produced by two Trump-supporting conservative biological sisters from North Carolina, Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, or better known by their professional names, Diamond and Silk. As I mentioned in the hearing, these women were unfairly censored and removed from Facebook because they were deemed as “unsafe to the community.” What did these women do wrong? Nothing. They exercised their First Amendment right and expressed their political beliefs.

[Editor’s note: Zuckerberg responded to the question by saying, “nothing is unsafe about that. The specifics of this situation, I’m not as up to speed on.” He was then interrupted by Rep. Long, according to a video of the testimony posted to CNBC.]

I am not arguing against Facebook’s policy for removing posts that are unsafe for the community, but this does not qualify. Social media is often used as a platform for hate speech and a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations; this type of content must absolutely be removed. However, Facebook cannot decide which viewpoints are represented on its platform.

All individuals in the United States should be able to speak their minds freely, especially concerning their political views without thought police censoring them.

U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Missouri, can be reached at (202) 909-3744. His Twitter handle is @USRepLong.


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